BY SARAH DUFF
I met with Marius du Plessis the same day that Penguin and Random House’s merger was publicly announced. As the world’s biggest publishers amalgamate, there’s even more room for independent publishers, like his newly launched Fox & Raven Publishing.
“I’m doing my Masters on why people in South Africa don’t read. My theory is that publishers are not producing what people want to read. Niche publishers cater for reading tastes and as big publishers go even more mainstream, indie houses are going to do better and better.”
Out of this was born the idea for Cape Town-based Fox & Raven Publishing, with a distinctly non-mainstream focus on speculative fiction: science fiction, fantasy, steam punk and horror – just the kind of genres that are under-represented in local bookshops. Du Plessis cites Lauren Beukes as an example of the big things that can come to South African novelists if they’re willing to push the boundaries of fiction and write what they want to. “Beukes has been groundbreaking for South African publishers,” he says.
While its website has only just recently gone live, Fox & Raven has been receiving fiction submissions from all over the world – mainly from the UK, India and Nigeria – via Facebook and Tumblr. Its first short story, Passing Visions, by Martin John Stokes was published last month (it’s selling on Amazon for $2.99) — a fantasy thriller about mental disease. There are two novels planned for the end of 2013 – one in English and one in Afrikaans.
Alongside speculative fiction, Fox & Raven will publish recipe books, with a series of Afrikaans cookbooks planned over the next four years covering traditional nostalgic food, seafood, bushveld kos and cooking in a woestyn kombuis (desert kitchen).
Du Plessis’s belief in the power of reading is clear when he talks about his plans for the non-publishing end of Fox & Raven. “Half the business will be focused on publishing, and the other half on book-related charity. I want every local library to have a reading corner where we can provide the kind of books kids want to read, in an attempt to make libraries cool again. Reading helps you escape into a better world, and for many kids that’s just what they need.”
This same passion is found on Fox & Raven’s manifesto: “[we have a] distinct and irrevocable desire to publish powerful books. By powerful, we mean the kind of books that make the reader want to rip their hair out, sob into pages of glorious prose, scream with excitement as they pore over a new chapter on a train. The kind of books that change people’s lives.”
That’s enough to get any bibliophile excited about this indie publisher.